|« Thyrotoxic myopathy - thyroid diseases||Thyroid Breakthroughs, Smoking and Environmental Links »|
Coping With Migraines: Tips and Strategies for Thyroid Patients
Thyroid patients know that dealing with all of the symptoms that stem from their condition can be a proverbial “pain in the neck,” but for many, it can also lead to pain in the head -- literally. For reasons that researchers are still working to uncover, thyroid patients are often much more prone to migraine headaches than the general population.
While all headaches can be painful and inconvenient, the symptoms associated with migraine headaches -- including nausea, light sensitivity, and extreme discomfort -- are often so severe that they make normal tasks and activities virtually impossible. When added to the challenges of navigating life with a thyroid disorder, the added strain of coping with migraine headaches can be daunting.
This week, we’ll explore the connection between thyroid disorders and migraine headaches. We’ll take a look at the causes and symptoms of migraines, the origins of the link between migraines and thyroid-related illnesses, and treatments that thyroid patients can rely on to reduce both the symptom intensity and frequency of migraines.
What is a Migraine Headache?
Believe it or not, this is a question that is still the topic of some debate among scientists and researchers. Because the experience of pain is such a personal sensation, and because migraine symptoms tend to vary from person to person, the clinical definition of migraine headaches has been somewhat difficult to pin down.
Most researchers, clinicians, and headache sufferers alike can agree on one thing: the migraine is one of the most severe types of headaches, often resulting in near-paralyzing pain in the head and along the temple. However, where migraines differ from other types of headaches is in the fact that they are also often accompanied by a host of other symptoms, including:
- nausea and vomiting
- inability to work or perform simple tasks
- an aversion to loud noises
- photosensitivity (avoidance of sunlight, lamps, or other artificial lighting)
- a strong desire to lie down and remain motionless
- a throbbing sensation in the head and neck
Often, migraine sufferers experience a sensation called an “aura” in the hours before the onset of a headache. This results in a sensation of flashing lights, spots, or zigzags in the field of vision. In some cases, vision may be temporarily limited or lost during the pre-migraine aura.
Migraine headaches are often more intense and long-lasting than other types of headaches. Although they can last for as little as 1-2 hours, they often stretch for as long as 2-3 days. After the pain of a migraine has receded, sufferers often have to deal with a lingering sense of illness and malaise in the aftermath of the headache.
Can Thyroid Disorders Cause Migraines?
At this point, researchers remain unsure about the exact cause of migraine headaches. While there are several prevailing theories that have sought to explain the origins of these headaches, research on the subject has been inconclusive. At the current juncture, it is unclear whether a single, conclusive cause for migraines will ever be discovered.
However, it does seem that thyroid patients tend to suffer from migraines more frequently than those who do not have thyroid disorders. One common hypothesis contends that hormonal changes may trigger migraines, and because the thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system, which is responsible for dispensing and regulating hormones within the body, researchers believe that this link may be significant.
Specifically, some researchers have posited that thyroid hormones interact with serotonin and noradrenalin, two of the chemical compounds that are related to migraine headaches. Although the precise mechanism of this interaction remains unclear, it is suspected that it may explain the heightened frequency of migraines among patients with thyroid disorders.
Treating and Preventing Migraines: An Action Plan for Thyroid Patients
Migraine headaches are notoriously stubborn and resistant to treatment. Although some effective pharmaceutical treatments for migraines have been developed in recent years, doctors recommend prevention-oriented strategies as the best way to reduce the harmful impact of migraines in your life.
Complete prevention may be impossible, especially if the “trigger” that is causing your migraines is hormonal or chemical in nature. However, by following these steps, you may be able to significantly reduce the number and intensity of migraines you experience.
- Practice good adherence to your prescribed thyroid medication. This will help eliminate large hormonal and chemical variances that could trigger a migraine attack, not to mention keeping your other thyroid-related symptoms in check.
- Determine whether you have any other triggers that may be setting off your migraines. Frequent culprits are common foods and beverages, such as alcohol, nuts, or chocolate. Get into the habit of keeping track of your daily food intake in a journal. If you have a migraine, you may be able to identify your triggers by analyzing what you ate and drank in the days before the attack.
- At the earliest onset of a migraine “aura” or the tell-tale pain, take the medication that your doctor has prescribed for you. For many patients, a dose of aspirin and several cups of coffee may do the trick (although you should clear this with your physician before you try it).
- If the migraine becomes severe, don’t be afraid to seek emergency intervention. ER personnel have solutions that can significantly decrease the intensity of a migraine headache.
- Develop a personal action plan with your doctor well before a headache hits, so that both you and your family will know what to do when the symptoms begin.
For Further Reading
Note: The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for professional care. This site should not be used in place of professional medical advice. The author is not a physician. For medical emergencies, call 911!
All content Copyright © 2007-2010 MedicalOnly.com and can not be reproduced without written permission from MedicalOnly.com.